The Continuing Bewilderment of Fatherhood

Well we’ve made it almost 4 months into round two and I’d have to say that bewilderment continues to be the most constant theme in life since the arrival of our first adventure, Finnegan.  Having spent a few hours walking around town yesterday and on our bellies on the living room floor, Oscar, my second son and I are really tuning into some common ground.  We both like to talk, a lot, both of us a bit incomprehensible at times, we both like to sit in silence after reading aloud the seemingly simple verse of ancient Chinese Zen masters.  We are amazed at the infinite small print of existence and the role we play in attempting to draw meaning from these details while seizing on the occasional opportunity to write our own additions to these operating instructions of life.

And it was during this amazing afternoon spent searching for the “Go Wilde” button on my little boy, Oscar that I realized how much I was going to miss this guy and Finn when I seized on such an opportunity to rewrite the fine print of existence and treat myself to the Poetry Workshop at the Wrangell Mountain Center later this summer.  These guys change so quickly as do we all.  I read last night in a great sci-fi novel Machine Man by Max Berry that our bodies, all of the cells that make the fine print of our physical presence in this world, are completely regenerated every 7 years, we are in fact completely different physical beings now than we were 7 years ago.  So not just the boys will change significantly during 3+ weeks we are apart, my wife too will no doubt have rewritten some of her fine print too when we are back together in Juneau.  But despite this hesitancy to take advantage of a great opportunity to spend a week writing, embracing solitude and living by the inkblood, I know this workshop and this trip is essential in keeping my fine print telling a good story, or at least giving good instructions.

I remember struggling with identity and purpose quite a lot when I first became a father.  Shifting from egocentricity to allocentricity did not come easy, would I be able to maintain enough of the time I needed for myself to write while selflessly devoting myself to my new family?  The answer wasn’t forthcoming but I feel confident now, nearly 5 years in that balance can be found.

Dan Beach-Quick will be leading Strangeness: A Poetry Workshop in Accuracy’s Paradox, at the Wrangell Mountain Center and I was looking around trying to get a feel for his work and came across an essay he wrote for the New York Times a few years back and it was this essay, Modern Love: Disassembling my Childhood that got me writing this post and really thinking about the gifts we are given, the ones we overlook when they arrive due to too much anticipation, the ones we mistake for burdens, the ones we give.  My family is the gift that gave my life a certain purpose an easy answer to the big questions (the one that I never really believed 42 was a reasonable answer for).  The question this spring, as I gear up to rework my habits as an undisciplined poet and get to work again, is this year’s big gift the chance to go to this workshop or the chance to again appreciate all of the small gifts that come to me every day?  Ones that begin with a cry of “Daddy I need you” or a smile and silence when I pick up sleepy Oscar from the warmth of the comforter.

“I felt like a child myself, sitting on the floor next to the undone puzzle. A child with a child of his own. Parenthood, for me, occurs in the paradox of being a father and a child at once.”– Dan Beachy-Quick  from the essay, Modern Love: Disassembling my Childhood

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